The Civilizations of the Renaissance

Jacob Burckhardt toured most of Europe particularly in Italy, studied its past art and developed a keen insight into its cultural significance before writing, Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. He analyzed the political situation, personalities, the philosophical trends, and the material culture of Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries. His book stands as a fascinating exploration of the Italian thought, culture and society during the Renaissance movement. (The European Renaissance: religion, Humanism, science and culture).

The evils, of the 14th Century and their misdeeds cried out loud and have been retold circumstantially by historians. Though the major political secrets of the prudent rulers have never been fully known. With the chief sources of income being: land tax, valuation, goods consumption and duties on exported and imported goods. The only possible increase was derived from the growth of business and of general prosperity. Loans were here unknown. Out of these revenues, the court expenses, bodyguard wages, mercenary troops’ salaries, and public buildings constrictions were met. The illegitimacy of his rule isolated the tyrant and surrounded him with constant danger.

Renaissance Humanism was concerned with self-fashioning, mainly based on the program of ‘Studia Humanitatis’, meaning, the study of humanities: Rhetoric, history, grammar, poetry, moral and philosophy. Burckhardt goes add that; “…this was entirely in keeping with the culture of the time and that such discourses were actually frequent in a good society, cannot be doubted, and that it was an affectation, but a genuine passion.” (Civilization and adaptation of Renaissance.” Architectural Inventions).

In his efforts to recover, interpret and assimilate the language, literature, and values of ancient Greece and Rome; Burckhardt illuminates a world of artistic and cultural unrest innovation, and discovery of revived humanism; of fierce tensions between church and empire; and of the birth of both the modern state and individual. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy remains the single most important and influential account of this crucial moment in the history of the West. Burckhardt work covers; politics, individualism, science, the revival of antiquity and humanism, society festivals, morality and religion.(The European Renaissance: Religion, Humanism, science and culture).

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As he argues in his work, (Burckhardt) political philosopher and father of social sciences, Niccolo Machiavelli, is credited to having revived the Roman thinkers’ ideas when he made a break in the western political thought, thus allocating a unique reasoning to politics and trust. Burckhardt’s fascinating description of an era of cultural transition has become the most influential interpretation of the Italian Renaissance, and anticipated ideas such as Nietzsche’s concept of the ‘Ubermensch’ in its portrayal as an age of a genius. Besides, another humanist, Matteo Palmieri wrote a book, “On Civic Life” which advocated for civic humanism. His enthusiasm for deep and broad education, made him believe that this would give people power in public engagement and enhance the human ethics to do good deeds and contribute to the community. (The European Renaissance: Religion, Humanism, science and culture).

The new ideals of humanism although more secular in some aspects; emerged against a Christian influence, mainly in the Northern Renaissance. Much of the art was commissioned by or in dedication to the Church. However, the Renaissance had a profound effect on contemporary theology, how people perceived the relationship between man and God. Most of the theologians were followers of the humanist method, such as Erasmus, Zwingli and John Calvin.

The Renaissance began in times of religious turmoil. A period of political intrigue surrounding the Papacy was witnessed, in which three men claimed to be a true Bishop of Rome. Despite the fact that the schism was resolved by the Council of Constance, the 15th century saw a resulting reform movement; Conciliarism, which sought to limit the pope’s power. “Although the papacy eventually emerged supreme in ecclesiastical matters, it was dogged by continued accusations of corruption, in the persons such as, Po Alexander, who was accused of simony, nepotism and fathering four illigimate children whom he married off to gain more power. `

At the time, personalities such as Erasmus and Luther wanted reforms in the Church, mainly based on humanist of the New Testament. Later in October 1517, Luther published the 95 Thesis, challenging papal authority and criticizing its perceived corruption, particularly with regard to its sale of indulgences. The 95 Theses led to the Reformation, Protestants and a break with the Roman Catholic Church that previously claimed hegemony in Western Europe. Humanism and the Renaissance, therefore, played a direct role in sparking the Reformation, as well as in many other contemporaneous religious debates and conflicts.(The European Renaissance: Religion, Humanism, science and culture).

Burckhardt illuminates a world of artistic and cultural ferment.Art was “invented” in the Renaissance. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, selections of drawings were displayed which revealed a startling array of talent through the medieval centuries. Entitled “Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages,” the exhibition examined the achievements of medieval draftsmen, and includes many works that have never before been lent outside their home countries. As cited in, Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy. (In Medieval History Renaissance: Quest humanism).

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The art of Renaissance was marked by the development of high esteemed individuals. Giotto da Bondone is credited of treating a painting as a window into space and Leonardo da Vinci on human anatomy. They did all this to depict the beauty of nature. Examples of Renaissance art are Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man, the Last Supper and Mona Lisa. In architecture, Filippo Brunelleschi studied the remains of ancient classical buildings such as, Arches, segmental, used in arcades and columns with capitals and other rediscovered information from the 1st Century writer Vitruvius. With his knowledge in mathematics, he formulated and improved the classical forms. His major achievement in engineering was the building of the dome of Florence Cathedral. Whereas the outstanding architectural work of the Architectural Renaissance; was the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica, with the combination of skills from people like Mademo and Michelangelo.’ (Civilization and adaptation of Renaissance.” Architectural Inventions).

The inventions occurring in the humanities and arts were mirrored by a dynamic period of change in the sciences. A “science revolution” that echoed the beginning of the modern age. Regardless, there is general agreement that the Renaissance saw significant changes in the way the universe was viewed and the methods with which philosophers sought to explain natural phenomena.”In science theory and in conducting actual science practice, Leonardo was innovative. He set up controlled experiments in water flow, medical dissection, and systematic study of movement and aerodynamics; he devised principles of research method that for Capra classify him as “father of modern science”. In Capra’s detailed assessment of many surviving manuscripts Leonardo’s science is more in tune with holistic non-mechanistic and non-reductive approaches to science which are becoming popular today.” (The European Renaissance: Religion, Humanism, science and culture).

The new scientific discoveries contributed a lot in the fields of physics, dissection, astronomy, anatomy biology. Lacking refrigeration,medieval people cooked and ate their meat within a few days of the animal’s slaughter, according to the “rotten meat theory,” food was preserved by; drying, smoking, soaking in brine and packing in salt. Thursday December 17, 2009.Spices were much too expensive to waste on bad meat, and no amount of spices can really disguise the taste of truly rotten meat — which, unless you have long been accustomed to it will make you sick. (In Medieval History Renaissance.” Quest humanism).

Feudalism was a hierarchical system of social relationships wherein a noble lord granted land known as a fief to a free man, who in turn swore fealty to the lord as his vassal and agreed to provide military and other services. It was not the “dominant” form of political organization in medieval Europe since there was no “hierarchical system” of lords and therefore, vassals engaged in a structured agreement to provide military defense. (Civilization and adaptation of Renaissance politics: Architectural Inventions).

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